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Irene Fonseca

FLAD and the Portuguese Scientists in America

2006-06-19

Irene Fonseca was born in Lisbon, July 10, 1956. Her research interests lie in the areas of continuum mechanics, calculus of variations, geometric measure theory and partial differential equations. Her recent work has been focused on the search for effective or relaxed energies, and on the study of existence, regularity, oscillatory and hysteretic behavior of solutions of (non convex) variational problems associated with materials instabilities, nucleation and growth of phases, the formation of islands (quantum dots), fracture and defects in solids, etc.

The applications which guide her in this program arise from the analysis of mathematical models for computer vision and imaging, as well as for novel man-made materials such as shape memory alloys, ferroelectric, magnetic and magnetostrictive materials, composites, liquid crystals, and thin films. According to Irene Fonseca mathematical challenges lie in the description of the dynamics and evolution of microscopic structures and of phenomena that occur at vastly different temporal or spatial scales! And this requires recently developed mathematical tools and the introduction of new mathematical techniques, she says.

She is currently a Full Professor at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, holds the Chair of Mellon College of Science and is also the Director of the Center for Nonlinear Analysis.

She received her Licenciatura in Mathematics at University of Lisbon in July 1980 and at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis she received her Master of Science in August 1983 and, exactly two years later, in 1985, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D). Through 1985-1987 she took a Postdoc in Paris VI (Paris, France) and at the cole Polytechnique (Palaiseau, France).

She went to the US to get her PhD, and choose the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis because her brother-in-law Manuel Ricou was already there, with her sister, pursuing his own PhD in Mathematics. She was awarded a Fullbright travel fellowship and a Gulbenkian fellowship that covered her tuition and stipend during the 4 years of her training.

She has written around 90 articles, a significant part of them in collaboration with other researchers, and since in mathematics authors are listed in alphabetical order, she often doesnt comes as the first author. She has also co-written two books in collaboration with two other fellow colleagues.

After her postdoc training, in 1987 she came to the US as an assistant Professor of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in Carnegie Mellon University, and has remained there since then. Nowadays she is a Principal Investigator in her individual National Science Foundation grant and is also the Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation award that funds the Center for Nonlinear Analysis.

She is currently supervising two PhD students and mentoring one postdoc, however as Director of the Center for Nonlinear Analysis, she helps to coordinate the activities of the Center that counts with 3 Postdocs and 16 other permanent faculty members.

Irene Fonseca is also dedicated to promoting mathematical studies beyond the undergraduate years, which she achieves by explaining to undergraduates the opportunities they have if they pursued graduated studies and research, and in addition she makes an effort in forming affiliations with other institutions to collaborate and to establish a network on an international level, aiming to provide the maximum amount of opportunities to these students in the future.

Her objectives are to sustain and enhance the visibility and scientific impact of the Center for Nonlinear Analysis at Carnegie Mellon University, as a research center for the development of new theories and the training at the frontier of applied mathematics. Although, part of her objectives are as well to contribute to the bridging of the Portuguese scientific communities abroad and in Portugal. The latter seats at the core of the mission of the Forum Internacional de Investigadores Portugueses (FIIP), she says.

Since 1994, she furthermore makes part of the Fundao para a Cincia e Tecnologia (FCT) where she coordinates the evaluation panel of the investigation centers and projects in Mathematics.

Irene Fonseca says her international reputation is due in part to her contributions to the area of the Calculus of Variations, somewhat more active in Europe than in the USA, and to the role she plays in the leadership of the Center for Nonlinear Analysis. According to Roy Nicolaides, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, Irene repeatedly puts the department at the forefront of significant activity in applied mathematics and also has a talent for identifying potential leaders in applied mathematics.

She has not been invited to return to Portugal.

AWARDS

Grande Oficial da Ordem Militar de Sant'Iago da Espada (Portuguese

Decoration, March 8 1997 by former President Jorge Sampaio)

"Women of Distinction Award in Math and Technology" in 2004

AWM-SIAM Sonia Kovalevsky Lecturer for 2006

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